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Steve Roach - Mercurius CD (album) cover


Steve Roach

Progressive Electronic

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars American progressive-electronic/ambient composer Steve Roach divides his releases these days between rhythmic-based energetic discs (often highlighting his vintage/Berlin School influences) and more unhurried ever-expanding long-form works, with his latest, 2018's `Mercurius' being one of the latter. It holds plenty of those ever-reaching and subdued ambient caresses the artist is known for, but is performed with the endless grace, keen intelligence and complete sophistication that only comes from a lifetime of honing his craft. Roach describes this album as a meditation and reflection on impermanence, and that balance of appreciating the moment, looking back in both gratitude and regret, contentment with the present as well as excitement and apprehension of what's to come is all kept in perfect unison, with the disc never being overwhelmingly uplifting nor too melancholic.

For an artist that frequently works in electronic drones of the most minute of perceptible changes, `Liminal' instead is constantly undulating and weaving with sweeping synth lines of constant movement that drift and swoon with inviting beckoning and comforting romance (it's even ever so slightly whimsical too!), and being a shorter piece at seven minutes makes for a more approachable and easily-welcoming opener. There's an orchestral-like elegance that sustains throughout the hauntingly mesmerising `Immanent', its ethereal ambient embraces stretching on to lulling infinity, and its carefully emerging shimmering finale quivers with the possibility of life and love.

`Aeon' soundtracks the ups-and-downs, the unpredictability and reality of life itself, drowsy and lightly disorientating in its opening minutes with an infiltrating unease, before expanding out with unravelling bursts of awakening light that proves almost overwhelming in its intensity. The closing title-track `Mercurius' holds a pensive air of placid rising and retreating synth pools that ultimately reveal renewed strength and self-belief, lifting even higher in the final moments that prove defiant and victorious.

This probably isn't the place to start for more green prog-electronic/ambient and Roach newcomers, nor will it likely click with listeners who prefer the man's more driving and dynamic compositions. But many of those established Roach fans who connect with his carefully building percussive-free collections will discover a very special and deeply moving electronic work here full of contrasting emotions, and `Mercurius' proves to be poignant, deeply immersive and exceptionally powerful.

Four stars.

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Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | Review Permalink

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